Objectives: Chronic liver disease is a frequent cause of morbidity and mortality. The aim of this study was to characterize the effects of physician specialty on length of stay, mortality, and costs during hospitalizations for end-stage liver disease.
Methods: We used data from the HBS International EXPLORE database. Patients hospitalized for treatment of variceal hemorrhage, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, or hepatic encephalopathy were identified from primary discharge diagnoses. Patients were characterized by the specialty of the attending physician and by whether a gastroenterology consultation was obtained. Procedures performed were identified using ICD-9CM procedure codes. Costs were computed using proprietary HBS International Standard Transaction Codes. Linear and logistic regression analyses were used to examine the effect of physician specialty and consultation on length of stay, in-hospital mortality, and costs.
Results: Attending gastroenterologist care was associated with a shorter length of stay compared to nongastroenterologist attending care (median 4 vs 5 days, p = 0.01), which persisted after adjustment for differences in patient age, comorbidity, and number of procedures performed. There was a strong trend toward greater in-hospital mortality for patients without a gastroenterology attending or consultant (adjusted OR 1.72; 95% CI = 0.99, 2.98) compared to patients with a gastroenterology attending. Costs of hospital care were not significantly different between physician groups.
Conclusions: Gastroenterologist involvement in inpatient care for end-stage liver disease was associated with shorter length of stay and a strong trend toward improved survival. Hospital costs were similar for patients cared for by the different physician groups.